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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 14:18 GMT
Tackling the challenge of dyslexia
Kate Griggs
Kate Griggs was incensed at the way her son's dyslexia was treated
To most people dyslexia means getting your letters back to front.

However for those affected by dyslexia, symptoms can include problems with the times table, a failure to grasp detail or the experience of seeing the words are hopping around a page of text.

Yet people with dyslexia are also good at seeing the big picture, and can be visually creative.

School can be miserable for children with dyslexia if the condition is not diagnosed or if the school does not support them.

They get branded as disruptive with the frustration of trying to learn in spite of their condition and school policy.

Mother-of-two Kate Griggs was so incensed at the way her son Ted's dyslexia was ignored at school that she trained as a teaching assistant with expert input from the Helen Arkell Centre for Dyslexia - Britain's first specialist centre which offers expert assessment and tuition.

Teaming up with the centre she approached the British Dyslexia Association and formed Xtraordinary People a campaigning charity.

It lobbies for a change in government policies but also wants to change the culture in school staffrooms and practices in the classroom.

Xp was given access to Walworth Lower School in South London a school described officially as being in "challenging circumstances" with high failure rates in SATs (standard attainment tests).

They wanted to show the government what could be done to improve things for teachers and pupils.

BBC Real Story spent eight months with the Teacher Squad, specialists coordinated by Xp from the Helen Arkell Centre and Dyslexia Action.

Is my child affected by dyslexia?(Source: Xtraordinary People)
Real Story - Teachers Squad
Has your school screened your child for dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties.
What was the result?
What are they doing - is your child getting extra provision or support in literacy?
Is a specially accredited teacher providing extra help?
If not, why not? Talk to the headteacher.
Remind the school multi sensory teaching is the best way to support children with learning difficulties.

The experience was a double challenge.

Firstly to screen for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) the school's Year Seven pupils and to increase their reading ages.

The second task was and to encourage and exhort the school's teachers to adapt their teaching methods for children with conditions such as dyslexia.

This change of style involved encouraging multi sensory teaching - literally hands on learning - where children learning by engaging all senses and active participation in their learning.

Screening revealed surprising levels of SpLDs among the pupils with some who having reading ages as low as six at the age of 11 this meant the children had gone through primary school without being diagnosed or helped.

But Teacher Squad tutor Christine Birch said the biggest challenge was teaching teachers who are "justifiably proud of the good job they do" in a school where many of the children present with a wide range of personal, emotional and or behavioural problems.

"For me to tell them that there are better ways to help these children may be seen as critical and patronising. It was my challenge to get across that there are methods they may have been unaware of, or needed refreshing that they could use in the class."

How teachers can help children (Source: Xtraordinary People
Demand awareness and foundation training for all teachers and support staff in your schools.
Campaign for specialist training in multi-sensory teaching.
Take an accredited qualification in specialist teaching which is registered with the British Dyslexia Association or Patoss.

History teacher Jennifer Partridge said the project was nerve wracking but added, "It was really interesting watching how the pupils reacted - they really did themselves proud on occasions."

English teacher Alison Bramble was more guarded.

"For some pupils, reading levels can change and have a positive empowering affect. However, to insist that because a child's reading level has risen, that child is going to make improvements in all areas is not necessarily true in a school like this."

The children had no doubts about the experience.

"It's been wicked," said Sohib Hussain, "I now like reading and I couldn't read before."

Daniel Bell added, "The project has been fun. I was shy of the cameras to begin with but then I just pretended they weren't there.

"I do like my one-to-one lessons, they're better than my other lessons. They've helped me a lot with my reading, writing and spelling."

Real Story is transmitted on BBC One at 1900 GMT on Wednesday 13 December 2006.

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